Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Catching this article while watching the Denver Nuggets host the Dallas Mavericks for Game 5 of their Western Semis series, it’s hard to not say something.

In an article from Jeré Longman of the New York Times, Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Shawn Andrews delves into an ongoing personal battle with depression. When you hear about NFL players suffering from this affliction these days, there are two cabinets where those stories are typically filed. Either the player may be suffering the effects of almost a lifetime of blows to the head from tackles and hits or the player may be depressed from life after the adulation and media attention.

As you read Andrews’ account, you’d find that his depression is as complex as Rubik’s cube, yet some of the roots are very easy to trace.

This is fascinating for two reasons. For starters, to even get ready to play a game takes a ton of work, let alone for someone whose emotions can dip so drastically. It’s beyond preparing for the physical toll that the body will take, but the mental focus that is necessary to perform at least adequately enough to stay on the field. When Andrews mentioned his lack of interest in watching games that he’s not playing in, it made me wonder what it has to take for him to sit through game film in his career, even if it’s a major part of his job. Also, if there’s no aggression to channel into brute force – something that seems like a requirement for anyone that plays along the offensive or defensive lines – then what does Andrews do to make up for it?

Secondly, considering how serious depression is, I wonder how prevalent this may be in locker rooms around the league. Longman made a comment saying that the football culture is unforgiving towards something that can be perceived as a weakness, such as battling some emotional problems. Yet, American society is far more open discussing clinical issues than one would think. Awareness of depression, ADHD and social anxiety disorder (as discussed recently by Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals) increased thanks in part to countless media reports, medical studies and a few people brave enough to publicly disclose their conditions. I doubt that Andrews’ reveal will start a wave of mass confessions, but at least it can allow for players in any sport to not feel any stigma or fear backlash for opening up.

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